Academic Diversity Activities: Inclusion/Exclusion


To experience the frustrations of being left out of a group or being ignored by its members and to explore the factors associated with the behaviors of insiders and outsiders.


15–20 minutes


One sheet of paper for each group of five or six students; each paper should have a large number on it (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).


Determine the number of students in the group and how many groups you can form with six or seven students in each group.

Begin by telling the group that you will need some volunteers. Select enough volunteers to equal the number of groups you determined earlier. (For example, assume you have 30 students in the class. That would allow for five groups of six students in each group. Therefore, you will need to select five volunteers.)

Ask the class to wait just a minute while you take the volunteers out into the hall. Tell the volunteers that you will be back to give them instructions in a minute.

Return to the large group and ask them to get into groups of five or six participants and form a circle. It is okay if a few groups have a smaller or larger number than five. Tell the students that the goal of each circle is to keep the volunteers from becoming a part of their group. They should pick any subject and talk to each other. The subject may be planning a party or some other special event; each group should appear to be having a good time. The groups can use any means possible, except violence, to keep the volunteer from becoming a part of the group. The group may chose to stand very close together so that the volunteer cannot get into the circle. The group members may simply ignore the volunteers and not talk to them. Give each group a sheet of paper with the number of their group on it.

Leave the larger group to form their circles and select their topics to talk about. Return to the volunteers in the hall. Tell the volunteers that their goal is to become a part of the circle that you will assign them to. Assign a number to each volunteer and remind then that their goal is to become a member of the group with that number. Bring the volunteers into the room and ask the circles to hold up their numbers. Allow the interaction to proceed for about three minutes. Then ask everyone to return to their seats.


First, ask everyone to give the volunteers a round of applause for being brave enough to be volunteers for this activity. Thank them. Then lead them in a discussion of this activity. Ask volunteers:

  1. How did you feel about being excluded by the group?
  2. How hard did you try to become part of the group?
  3. What did you do to try to get in?
  4. What did the group say or do to you to keep you out?

Ask group members:

  1. How did you feel about excluding the volunteer?
  2. How far were you willing to go to keep the volunteer out?

Tell them that in this situation they were asked to keep the volunteers out of the group. But in real life people do get excluded from groups and a lot of the time it is because they are thought to be different from people in the group.

  • Can you think of a time when you felt different from everyone else? Maybe you were the only girl in a group that had all boys. Or maybe you were the only person who spoke English in a room full of people. Who can share a time when they felt different?
  • What is one word that best describes how you felt when you were the one who was different? (Write these on a blank overhead or wall sheet.)
  • Have you ever been excluded from some group that you wanted to join? Why did you want to join them, and how did they exclude you?
  • Think about some people at your school that you consider different from you or the kids you hang around with. I’m sure everyone can think of at least one person that you think of as being different. Do you have that person in mind? Raise your hand if you have that person in mind. Now, here comes the hard part: Think of at least two ways in which that person is the same as you. (Ask students to share.) So, as you can see, although we are all unique and are in many ways different from everyone else, we are also the same in many ways.
  • What is the most important thing you learned from this activity?
  • Based on your experience in this activity, would you change any of your behaviors at school?
  • How could we make it easier for outsiders to join our group?

Inclusion/Exclusion (PDF)

Credit: Penn State School of Agricultural Sciences